BY Preeti Shah | March 23, 2022
Crime scene photography plays a crucial role in visually documenting the evidence present at the crime scene. It is a visual record and conveys all the details of the physical evidence, such as fingerprints, footprints, bloodstains, location of the crime, etc., that can be presented in the court of law.
Forensic photographers are trained to capture exact and high-definition images of the visible evidence and the crime area from several angles.
Though it is a high-paying and in-demand skill, it requires special training.
Photography is essential to document the crime scene, and as a forensic photographer, you must ensure that the images captured are not misleading to the viewers. You also need to be ethical in your behavior and capture accurate details that weave together the sequence of happenings.
As photographing the crime scene is a challenging task, several steps are taken to ensure error-free photographic documentation.
- The first step in any forensic investigation is securing the crime scene.
- A single-camera setting does not work in every situation. Hence, you need to adjust camera settings per the lighting and weather condition.
- You take photographs without disturbing anything at the crime scene. From overall scene shoot to capture a close-up of the physical evidence, photography is done to depict the relationship of individual evidence to the overall scene.
- Shots of victims, if present, are taken to depict their condition, injury marks, and location.
- An individual piece of evidence is also photographed to illustrate its relation to the victim. The images are captured from several angles to show the size of the evidence and elude distance distortions from the victim.
- It is essential to photograph the crime scene before and after placing the evidence markers, and it ensures nothing has tampered with the scene.
- If investigators identify a new piece of evidence, the entire process of shots needs to be repeated, including photographing all evidence and a scale to depict the size.
The primary aim of these photographs is to capture the crime scene, highlighting the scene's boundaries and excluding any other location. As a forensic photographer, you capture the entire scene in two steps: outside the boundary looking inside, and from the center of the scene, looking outside. In this case, the focus is on the whole area rather than the individual evidence present.
A fixed object at the crime scene is selected, and all the physical evidence and spatial arrangement concerning the object are captured. The photograph depicts the background, view, measurement, and exact position of the evidence.
These are the photographs of evidence found at the crime scene and clearly show all the features and markings that evidence bears. Typically each image is captured twice; one without a scale and one with a scale depicting its dimensions. You should ensure to align the image sensor of the camera parallel to the surface, eliminate shadows, and the object must be within the camera frame.
ALS such as colored filters, lasers, blue or green lights help detect hidden evidence or processed latent fingerprints and illuminate for photographing.
It is done at low angles using a flashlight or ALS to cast shadows to photograph an impression.
Macro photography, also referred to as close-up photography, is used to capture small objects, such as trace evidence or tool marks in which their size is bigger than their actual size.
These cameras contain arrays of electronic photodetectors used to capture images using lenses rather than exposure on photographic film.
It is also known as wide format photography and uses specialized equipment to capture images with an elongated field of view.
Sometimes two or more exposures having different values are superimposed to create a single image.
Crime scene investigation involves several steps. Forensic photography plays the most crucial role in capturing and preserving the evidence at the crime scene and helps investigating agencies in solving crime.
As the role of crime scene photographer is clear to you, we will now discuss what skills you need, salary range, and steps to start this career.
Apart from knowledge of crime scene photography, you must also possess skills and expertise in forensic science and crime scene investigation.
You must have:
- Knowledge about advanced forensic photography principles
- Understanding of the complete process involved in evidence recovered from the crime scene
- Familiarity with the conditions prescribed by the court for photo evidence
- Ability to handle stress and work in a chaotic environment
- Know-how of safety measures need to be followed at the crime scene
- Ability to work in a team and follow directions
- Ability to work for long hours or be available on-call
- A professional hands-on training certification or degree
There is no specific salary range that you can earn as a crime scene photographer. It depends on your qualification, years of experience, and the kind of organization you work with.
If you want to get paid a reasonable amount, you should diversify your forensic science knowledge and skills, especially those related to crime scene investigation.
There is a lot that can be written about crime scene photography. Criminal investigations rely heavily on photographic evidence, and the demand for skilled professionals is rising day by day with the rise in crime.
Hence it is a lucrative career for those interested in photography who have an eye for detail. You can take up a short-term or long-term forensic photography course from a reputed institute or apply for hands-on internship programs to gain specific skills.